Raising the Flag: America’s First Envoys in Faraway Lands

Peter D. Eicher. Potomac, $36.95 (416p) ISBN 978-1-61234-970-1
Retired diplomat Eicher unearths tales of some of the fledgling United States’ first envoys to foreign lands—“foreign” at the time including Louisiana and California, as well as the Ottoman Empire, China, and Africa’s Barbary Coast. With an official government foreign service years off, the men sent abroad to represent the U.S. in the two generations after the Revolutionary War were a motley mix of traders, sailors, and even a poet. The first U.S. representative to Tahiti, Jacques-Antoine Moerenhout, wasn’t even American. Their experiences in the countries where they served were likewise mixed. James Cathcart, later the first U.S. consul in Tripoli, began his career in North Africa as a slave laborer in Algiers. Reports by Thomas Larkin, the first and only U.S. consul to California, played a key role in feeding the gold rush frenzy in 1848. Japanese lore has made Townshend Harris more famous for his role as the villain in stories of the geisha Okichi-san than for his contribution to opening relations between the U.S. and Japan. Eicher makes a strong case for the importance of these largely underappreciated early diplomats. Though the writing can lean toward the academic, this book brings to light little-known stories that will fascinate early-America enthusiasts. Agent: Margery Thompson, Thompson Literary Agency. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/30/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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